New bill seeks to make hidden fees illegal in California
Fri, May 19, 2023 9:46 AM
By Ria Roebuck Joseph |The Center Square contributor, The Center Square
In a press conference on May 16, California Attorney General Rob Bonta emphasized the importance of Senate Bill 478 - The Consumers Legal Remedies Act. The act which outlaws hidden fees in sales and service, was introduced to the legislature by Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, on Valentine’s day.
“To the companies that have been involved in these junk fees, We’re saying that your days are ending with this practice. No more. It's inappropriate. It’s unfair. It’s wrong to consumers,” Bonta said at the conference.
This bill would make it illegal to advertise, display or offer a price for a good or service that does not include all mandatory fees or charges other than taxes imposed by a government.
Any deceptive acts or practices including advertising goods or services with intent not to sell as advertised but intended to result in the sale, lease or service to the consumer is illegal under SB 478.
Bonta is encouraging members of the public to share their “hidden fees” stories and launched #HiddenFeesUncovered on social media. Over the past two days the forum has received 25 likes and 18 retweets.
One twitter user drew attention to hotel resort fees, an enterprise which routinely tacks on fees to room costs.
“Californians have had enough with bait-and-switch pricing, when we’re not told upfront the true cost of goods and services. Whether buying tickets to a concert or sporting event or booking a vacation or a hotel, Californians deserve to know exactly how much they’re being asked to pay, and not be surprised later by hidden junk fees,” said Senator Skinner.
Indeed, some hotel resort fees have greatly increased, impacting room costs in the hundreds of dollars. A luxury hotel in San Diego can tack on mandatory fees of $67.50 on nightly cost per room as a resort fee for fitness or yoga classes, use of sporting equipment or facilities, internet access, newspapers, phone call, bottled water, in room coffee, phone calls and self-parking.
Other hotels carry a low resort fee of just a couple bucks to cover the in-room safe and insurance for the safe.
“Californians are fed up with dishonest fees being tacked on to seemingly everything,” said Senator Dodd. “It’s an underhanded trick to boost corporate profits at the expense of those who can least afford it. Our bill will end these unfair practices and put the consumer first, leveling the playing field for reputable businesses that advertise the real price up front.”
Since the end of the pandemic, justification for a new resort fee has surfaced - a room cleaning fee - which is not always disclosed to patrons until they show up at the hotel and are told about the mandatory cost which averages at $100.
Hotels however are not the only arena where hidden fees are a problem. Restaurants and food delivery, telecom and internet service, and tickets for live events have been subject to hidden fees.
One twitter user bought tickets to this Saturday's Marlins-Giants game and posted a snap of the purchase displaying a “convenience fee” of $25.75, an “order fee” of $3.50 and a “Stadium operator” fee for $2.25 driving up his ticket costs by $31.50, for a “regular” seat.
It’s stories like these that Bonta is hoping consumers would share.
“We can and should stop the fleecing of consumers. We can and should stop the imbalance in the marketplace,” Bonta said in drawing attention to the bill drafted to tackle the practice of low headline prices which attract the customer but does not readily disclose attached hidden fees.